For those of you who are bottom-line kind of readers, I’ll save you the suspense: I don’t know the “yes” or “no” answer to the question I’ve asked in the headline of this article. I do believe that knowledge can often begin with asking the right question, and so I’ve spent the past day trying to logically figure out if Jeff Sessions has already cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller against Donald Trump. I keep coming back to one specific piece of logic in search of the answer.
Donald Trump wants to fire Robert Mueller in the hope of sabotaging the Trump-Russia investigation, but he doesn’t have that authority; only the Attorney General does. Because Sessions long ago recused himself, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is currently the only one who can fire Mueller. Trump would have to fire Sessions, fire Rosenstein, and promote someone at the Department of Justice to Acting Attorney General who is willing to fire Mueller. For whatever reason, Trump hasn’t gone through with it. But it occurs to me that, legally speaking, getting fired might actually be the best thing for Sessions.
Jeff Sessions is in all kinds of legal trouble. Even though his Republican friends in the Senate have let him off the hook for perjuring himself during a Senate hearing in January, Mueller can indict and arrest Sessions for that same perjury at any time. If Trump does fire his way to ousting Mueller, the Trump-Russia investigation will at least temporarily come to a halt, as Congress decides whether to reappoint Mueller as an Independent Counsel and an unprecedented constitutional crisis plays out.
Trump could end up being impeached on the spot for it. But it’s possible that by getting himself fired, and thus shutting down the wide-ranging investigation in favor of a more dramatic Trump ouster, Sessions might end up avoiding prosecution. Sessions could even just resign now and set things in motion. Yet Sessions has shown no interest in trying to save himself by vacating his job. He doesn’t appear to be worried that Mueller is going to send him to prison.
I can only think of three explanations for why Jeff Sessions seems to have no desire to save himself by helping to get Mueller fired. 1) Sessions thinks he can somehow beat the perjury charges in court, which is far from a sure thing. 2) Sessions is planning to cut a deal with Mueller when the time comes. 3) Sessions has already secretly cut a deal with Mueller, in which he serves no prison time in exchange for testifying against Trump. There is some anecdotal evidence from Mueller’s investigation to suggest that option number three is indeed realistic.
We learned this week that Robert Mueller indicted and arrested George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI, and used it to force him to cut a deal. So we know that Mueller is willing to aggressively use these kinds of crimes (lying to a federal agent, lying under oath) to get what he wants. We also learned this week that Papadopoulos was secretly arrested four months ago, and cut a deal awhile ago, without anyone knowing. So it’s realistic to think that Mueller has gone hard after Sessions for perjury, and that Sessions may have already cut a secret deal with Mueller to keep himself safe – all without us, or Trump, knowing.
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